Dear friends,

This will be my last letter until the 1st November, as from tomorrow, I am on leave. I hope you keep well, and I will see you all in worship on the 1st, whether in person or on zoom!

Around this time of the year I always am reminded of the great storm of October 1987, when an estimated 15 million trees were blown down in the south of England, among them some of the oldest and most histrionic in the country. That weekend I was visiting friends in London, and walking in the parks it was hard to believe the scale of devastation. Mighty specimens that had stood for centuries were simply ripped from the ground, their roots laid bare, their branches smashed and splintered. The problem, of course, lay in their apparent strength. Unable to bend, they had been subjected to the full force of the gale, until finally they could stand it no longer.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

The testimony of Paul speaks of a willingness to bend in a different way. His fellow apostles, and many in the early Church, insisted that Christians were still bound by the rules and regulations of the Jewish law. These, they said, were non- negotiable. Not so for Paul. While he was happy to observe them himself, he was adamant that they were not binding on Gentiles. Christ having opened up a new way based solely and simply on love. On all else he was willing to bend if necessary, in order to get this message of love across.

Should we be ready to bend in turn? Many will say not, claiming that doing so would entail compromising our faith, but they are wrong. The history of the Church is littered with a sorry catalogue of mistakes stemming from Christians holding rigidly to what they see as truth. Such intolerance serves only to alienate people from the message of the gospel rather than attract them to it. According to Jesus, one commandment says all that needs saying: love one another. On that, and that alone, there can be no compromise.

Ponder, on what issues has the Church mistakenly refused to bend? What impact has this had on communicating the gospel? On what issues do you need to bend?

Lord, may we never be too full of our own righteousness that we refuse to admit that truth has many faces. Amen.

God bless, Tanya